Where can students find references on the language of blogs? I have noted that there are some books, but they are still mostly anecdotes and accounts from bloggers. Even the academic studies, which are slow in coming, have been useful for background but don’t provide a basis for analysis. The first literature search for most students (and last for some of them) is on Google. I have been trying to point them beyond Google, because for most topics they are better off looking at refereed academic journals with more substantial. But blogs are a newish topic in most academic fields, and it takes time for studies to work their way through the process of reviewing and publication. And the people who study blogs are, not surprisingly, good at making their work available free on the web. Most of it is in the form of conference papers, which have at least been refereed by someone.
So a Google Scholar search, with some following up of the references in the papers, and the citations to the papers, will lead to lots of interesting material. Many of the earlier papers are by well-known bloggers (Walker 2001; Blood 2004; Marlow 2004; Marlow 2006; Walker 2006). There are three problems with much of what one finds. Since they are conference papers, they tend to be short and undeveloped, an interesting concept or a bit of data. And very few of them have much to do with linguistics, even when they use words like ‘conversation’ or ‘text analysis’. Most are more interested in computer networks than in discourse. And since they are usually writing for other people in information sciences, they can be rather technical (though they do a good job at framing what they are doing for non-specialists, a lot better than most linguists do).
With those warnings in mind, here are some suggestions. The most active linguist in this area is Susan Herring, who has written and co-written and edited lots of papers on blogs, many of which are accessible from her web page at http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/herring/pubs.html
Let me just recommend two of these papers, a careful analysis of genre that could provide a background for selection of data and for comparisons ((Herring, Scheidt, Bonus and Wright 2004) and a paper on gender that is, I think, the first on blogs in one of the main sociolinguistics or discourse analysis journals (Herring and Paolillo 2006). Two other names keep coming up in my searches, Lilia Efimova, who is doing (has done?) a PhD at the Telematica Instituut in the Netherlands (http://blog.mathemagenic.com/) and Stephanie Hendrick, who is doing a PhD at the University of Umea in Sweden (http://www.sumofmyparts.org/blog/). Their papers often touch on discourse analytical issues, but they are mainly interested in aspects of networking (Hendrick 2003; de Moor and Efimova 2004; Efimova and Hendrick 2005).
Two earlier collections of papers from different fields also provide a good basis. ‘Into the Blogosphere’ is an on-line collection from North American rhetoricians (Gurak, Antonijevic, Johnson, Ratliff and Reyman 2004). The most useful, for me, is co-authored by the genre analyst Carolyn Miller (Miller and Shepherd 2004). There is also a theme issue of Communications of the ACM (Rosenbloom 2004) with accessible articles, including an interesting overview of links (Kumar, Novak, Raghavan and Tomkins 2004).
Some journal articles are beginning to emerge in areas other than information science. It’s worth keeping an eye on the one refereed outlet dedicated to this area, the on-line Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Some recent articles on blogs include (Huffaker and Calvert 2005; Trammell, Tarkowski, Hofmokl and Sapp 2006; Tremayne, Zheng, Lee and Jeong 2006; Thelwall and Stuart 2007). Other titles thrown up by a search include (Hevern 2004; Reed 2005). And I have seen the first of what will probably be many PhD dissertations on blog texts (Mishne 2007). It is about searching blog texts, not about analysing them in relation to language practices, but it is well-written and has many useful insights for more qualitative text analysts.
I wonder if there is a lesson in this searching. It could be that most discourse analysis continues to focus on a few genres, such as political speeches, newspaper articles, scientific research articles, and broadcast news interviews. These could all be called (in a category that Bill Nichols used to talk about documentary film) ‘discourses of sobriety’. It may be that we will have to adapt these well-established lines of analysis of sober genres to more carnivalesque genres such as blogs, YouTube, or reality TV. That is why the analysis of genres is probably the first step in any comparative analysis of blogs: what are they, and what are people doing when they do them?
Blood, R. (2004). "How Blogging Software Reshaped the Online Community." Communications of the ACM. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/blog_software.html
de Moor, A. and L. Efimova (2004). An Argumentation analysis of weblog conversations. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on the Language-Action Perspective in Communication Modelling, New Brunswick, NJ. https://doc.telin.nl/dscgi/ds.py/Get/File-41656/lap2004_demoor_efimova.pdf
Efimova, L. and S. Hendrick (2005). In Search for a virtual settlement: An exploration of weblog community boundaries. Communities and Technologies 05. https://doc.telin.nl/dscgi/ds.py/Get/File-46041
Gurak, L. J., S. Antonijevic, et al., Eds. (2004). Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/.
Hendrick, S. (2003). The Function of Language to Facilitate and Maintain Social Networks in Research Weblogs. English Department, University of Umea. http://www.eng.umu.se/stephanie/web/LanguageBlogs.pdf
Herring, S. C. and J. C. Paolillo (2006). "Gender and genre variation in weblogs." Journal of Sociolinguistics 10(4): 439-459.Preprint: http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/jslx.pdf
Herring, S. C., L. A. Scheidt, et al. (2004). Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of weblogs. Proceedings of the 37th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-37), IEEE. http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hicss/2004/2056/04/205640101b.pdf
Hevern, V. W. (2004). "Threaded identities in cyberspace: Weblogs and positioning in the dialogical self." Identities: An International Journal of Theory and Research 4(4): 321-335
Huffaker, D. A. and S. L. Calvert (2005). "Gender, identity, and language use in teenage blogs." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10(2). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/huffaker.html
Kumar, R., J. Novak, et al. (2004). "Structure and Evolution of Blogspace." Communications of the ACM 47(12): 35-39
Marlow, C. (2004). Audience, structure and authority in the weblog community. International Communication Association, New Orleans. http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~cameron/cv/pubs/04-01.html
Marlow, C. (2006). Linking without thinking: Weblogs, readership and online social capital formation. International Communication Association Conference, Dresden, Germany. http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~cameron/cv/pubs/2006-linking-without-thinking
Miller, C. and D. Shepherd (2004). Blogging as social action: A genre analysis of the weblog. Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. L. J. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff and J. Reyman. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogging_as_social_action_a_genre_analysis_of_the_weblog.htmlMishne, G. A. (2007). Applied Analytics for Blogs. Informatics Institute. Amsterdam, NL, University of Amsterdam. http://staff.science.uva.nl/~gilad/phd.html
Reed, A. (2005). "'My blog is me' Texts and persons in online journal culture (and anthropology)." Ethnos 70(2): 220-242
Rosenbloom, A. (2004). "Special Issue: The Blogosphere." Communications of the ACM 47(12)
Thelwall, M. and D. Stuart (2007). "RUOK? Blogging communication technologies during crises." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12(2). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol12/issue2/thelwall.html
Trammell, K. D., A. Tarkowski, et al. (2006). "Rzeczpospolita blogów [Republic of Blog]: Examining Polish bloggers through content analysis." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue3/trammell.html
Tremayne, M., N. Zheng, et al. (2006). "Issue publics on the web: Applying network theory to the war blogosphere." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12(1). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol12/issue1/tremayne.html
Walker, J. (2001). Do You Think You're Part of This? Digital Texts and the Second Person Address. Cybertext Yearbook 2001. Jyväskylä, FI, University of Jyväskylä. http://hdl.handle.net/1956/1140Walker, J. (2006). Blogging from inside an ivory tower. Uses of Blogs. J. J. Axel Bruns. Bern, Peter Lang. https://bora.uib.no/bitstream/1956/1846/1/Walker-Uses-of-Blogs.pdf